Q & A with Embroidery Artist & Workshop Tutor Rebecca Stevens
Workshops are making a come back at the Craft Barn in September. We can't wait to welcome everyone back again - tutors and students alike! There's a brand new workshop room, we've got new classes and we'll be welcoming back popular favourites - what would a workshop schedule be without professional finishing knitting class! Almost all of the workshops for this year are now full. However, we will soon be filling up the diary for 2022. We will keep you posted on new dates being released via our newsletter and social media. If you aren't already subscribed to our email newsletter you can sign up at the footer of our website.
In anticipation of the new workshops starting this month, we have a lovely chatty interview to share with embroidery artist and workshop tutor Rebecca Stevens. It's always interesting to delve a little deeper with our talented tutors and find out more about their work. Enjoy having a read of Rebecca Steven's answers and discover how her love of embroidery flourished.
When did your love of embroidery begin? How did you learn?
It was 2016 – I was already painting and illustrating whilst working at The Whitworth in Manchester. It has an amazing collection of textile pieces there that I was really inspired by. I’ve always loved trying crafty and creative things so I picked up a needle and thread and never put it back down! At first I tried stitching pre-made patterns but I wanted to create my own designs and that’s where the illustration experience came into it.
I learned through a mixture of books and online tutorials. The internet is a great place for sharing traditional skills.
Your Instagram is full of different stitches and beautiful designs. Instagram was where we first stumbled across you. When did you start sharing your embroidery on there?
I was already using Instagram socially and to show some of my paintings by the time I had started embroidering as a serious pursuit, so it came about quite organically. I started sharing occasional work-in-progress pieces and finished works and eventually it took over my Instagram feed and I converted it into a Business/Artist account. Now it’s almost exclusively for my embroidery and the stitching tutorial videos I created for others to learn embroidery.
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
I am always inspired by nature, which is strange because when I painted it was almost always cityscapes (I’m from Manchester and absolutely love my hometown). Perhaps it’s because traditional embroidery designs from textile artists like William Morris are very nature-focused and I’m following their example? Who knows. I do go for a lot of long walks and I’m a big fan of trees, forests and mountains. Dramatic landscape is what I go for in my work.
I also love collaborating with illustrators. I often work with Savannah Storm who creates gorgeous floral designs and I get them printed onto fabric and colour them in with thread.
In amongst your embroidery you have some really lovely sketches. Do you enjoy translating a sketch into a fabulous stitched piece? I guess it’s like painting with embroidery threads.
That’s exactly it, and there is a big movement of embroiderers out there at the moment who ‘thread-paint’. They apply threads to their own designs and styles without feeling the constrictions of traditional stitching methods.
I do enjoy sketching and then thinking about how it can work as an embroidery. I love to sketch when I’m on holiday – I don’t spend enough time doing it when I’m at home. I wish there were more hours in a day!
How do you decide which stitch to use when you are working on your designs?
I don’t tend to plan in advance but I mostly stitch the outlines of my designs with a couched back stitch, just because I find it gives the ‘smoothest’ line as the end result. To fill in areas, I often do layered seed stitches because you can ‘blend’ the colours well, like you can with paint.
In my workshops I like to teach a range of stitches that I find enjoyable and therapeutic, like the 'Spider Web stitch' and 'Pekinese stitch' which gives a lovely effect, but they don’t tend to make it into my larger embroideries. I think it’s because they’re quite traditional and decorative, whereas the subject of my designs can be a bit wild.
Do you have any other crafty hobbies?
My boyfriend’s mum always buys me great crafty gifts and for Christmas she gave me a Macramé set which I finished in about 2 days because I loved it so much.
She also got me a rag-rugging book and materials for my birthday last year which I am yet to begin (sorry Jan!) but it looks brilliant.
We can’t wait to have you teaching at the Craft Barn again. Do you enjoy this aspect of your embroidery, sharing your skills with others?
I absolutely love delivering workshops. I used to be a teacher and when I left the profession I knew I wanted to carry on using some of the skills I gained (or skills I like to think I gained, anyway). I am such a believer in the therapeutic benefits of crafting and always remind participants who come to the workshops that it isn’t about getting perfect, neat stitches, although all of them prove to be excellent and create gorgeous work anyway. It’s about taking time away from screens and focusing on creating something, which can be hugely beneficial for mental health.
The Craft Barn has been a great place to deliver workshops – it’s such a creative environment and so welcoming. I can’t wait to be back!
Follow Rebecca Stevens on Instagram